« Blogging Portfolio #1 | Main | Blank Verse Blog Entry »

February 20, 2006

Short Story

The Tourist
Despite the early morning hour, it was already approaching eighty degrees. It felt as if an air-tight jar encircled Seven Mile Island making the air so thick one almost had to chew it. Spooners would be opening in a matter of minutes, but the hot briny air stirred up by the swaying ceiling fans would not draw any islanders seeking air-conditioned comfort ambling down Dune Drive. Maggie Dawson relaxed on a stool with careful conscience to the locations of her boss, Mimi, a plump, bitter woman. Rolling her eyes, she thought, “She has eyes in the back of her head”, and fanned herself with a menu that was half as old as the restaurant and just as sticky.
That was how much of the charming island of Avalon was: battered, but loved, and old-fashioned. No, this was not an island of highways, guard rails, or noisy traffic. It was not a town filled with crime or stress. It was one of the few civilized places left in this busy world that had escaped the spread of infectious chain restaurants. This was a town where kids rode robin-egg-blue bicycles to dusty ball fields and people walking or blading always outnumbered the cars.
Yes, this was typical seaside living, alright. The sandy streets, familiar gull cries, seafood markets, and ice cream parlors defined the only home Maggie ever knew.
The late-August sun poured onto her lap. She almost forgot this was her last day at Spooners. This was also her last week in Avalon, for in a week she would pack and move her life to Boston where she would be attending her dream college, Emerson. This was what she had always wanted, right?
The time-warped screen door banged shut interrupting Maggie’s thoughts. She arose and picked up her pad and pen from the checkered countertop. Leaving home and seeing the world was what she dreamed about since she was a little girl and in a week she would finally be doing it. Smiling, she approached the family of four who had chosen a booth by the windows.
They were decked out in Avalon tees, hats, and of course the typical tourists’ necessity: fanny packs. Being a local all her life, these sort of people normally bothered her; however, she found this particular family adorable. Maggie could tell right away they were friendly new-comers. Maggie smiled brightly as she bragged of Sylvester’s Seafood, Beaches Eatery, and Isabel’s Ice Cream Parlor – not only restaurants, but the familiar faces she had grown up around.
And then it hit her, completely blind siding her while in the middle of boasting about how good Sunday specials were at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. Here she was, eighteen, about to embark on a journey that required her to pack everything she’s ever owned into the cramped trunk of her car and drive hundreds of miles north to an unfamiliar town to begin an unfamiliar life.
The family of four noticed Maggie had suddenly zoned out. Excusing herself, she pushed through the swinging doors and into the stifling kitchen. Sitting on the cool, familiar tile floor of Spooners, the realization that everything she ever knew was about to change was unbearable. College was now the enemy. The mere idea of starting a new life churned her up like a wave does a child caught in the tide. It twisted and battered her onto the solid sand completely at its mercy.
She suddenly remembered her ninth birthday spent by the sea. Images of crushing the day’s sandcastles, running after the ice cream truck’s proverbial tune that would forever be embedded into her memory flooded her memory. It was memories like that she could not pack into her pink suitcases come September. Those were the most important things in her life, but were unable to be carried with her to Boston. They would be forever left among the dunes and the foamy billows and in the future memories of a family of four tourists, unfamiliar to the sounds and the faces of the place Maggie could navigate with her eyes closed.
However, in time the family would come to know. As the couple aged and the children grew, they would come to know the ice cream man’s tune. Over the years, they would come to know old Sylvester himself at his family-owned seafood restaurant. There would be many Sunday mornings spent at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. Years and years will go by, and the family of four will soon fill scrapbooks and photo albums with memories upon memories of vacations on a little island tucked away by the sea called Avalon, that was, at one time, completely alien to them.
Mimi discovered Maggie sitting on the back stoop of the restaurant with her head in her hands, tears streaming down her face wondering how she could have taken advantage of something so special.
“Get out of here, kiddo”, Mimi grumbled. “I doubt we’ll be busy, anyway.” Pausing to look towards the Atlantic, she blinked at the brightness of the day. Although she stunk like grease and syrup, there was comfort in her voice and presence standing over Maggie. “Take a walk down Dune Drive. Go say hello to Sylvester. Grab some chocolate custard and lemonade from the boardwalk. Chase the sandpipers along the shoreline. Watch the sun set over the bay. Home is like graffiti on the heart and soul. You’ll never forget this place”, she murmured, then tipped her head back to drink in the cloudless sky. She chuckled, “Jesus, how could you?” All Maggie could do was smile. She had eyes in the back of her heart.
Maggie stood up, untied her apron, walked through Spooners, and nodded as she strolled out the door at the family of four who had affected her life more than they would ever know. She would be one of the many tourists soon. She would be the one coming back only to visit. Looking around, she realized how precious her memories she made there were. “This island is irreplaceable”, she whispered and smiled, walking away from Spooners for the final time.
Come September, the tourists will pack up their sandy bathing suits, striped beach chairs, a bucket or two of preciously collected shells and sea glass, and countless memories of sandcastles, miniature golf, and breezy nights by the sea. They’ll buckle up sun kissed children clenching souvenirs and containers filled with shiny rocks and hermit crabs from Calypso’s. Weary-eyed twin girls will wave sentimental goodbyes to the island, the sea, the sand, the place that will forever be remembered in their hearts when they think of summers at the shore. Jam-packed minivans and SUVs will cruise down balmy Dune Drive for the final time for a whole year, heading home.
“Home”, Maggie whispered as she took one final glance at Avalon before it faded into the orange ribbon sunset in the rearview mirror. “A place our feet may someday leave, but never our hearts.”

Posted by AmandaNichols at February 20, 2006 08:58 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?